The Dan Majerle Hustle Award is presented to the Suns player who fans, the players themselves, coaches, employees and Majerle himself feels embodies the determination, passion and hustle that “Thunder Dan” personified as a player during his illustrious NBA career.
I’ve been discussing this award with colleagues and friends, curious of who others feel is deserving of the award and why. It amazed me to see what people feel qualifies a player for this award.
On the postgame radio show on KTAR after each Suns game, fans call in voting for the a player they feel won the “Hustle Award” in that game. If you tally those votes Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat are the leaders by far. But as a voter I look at this award a little differently.
To me hustle isn’t always reflected on the stat sheet at the end of the game. Hustle doesn’t necessarily refelect who has the most points or rebounds or even steals. Throughout my playing career I always looked at hustle players as those who do the little things: locking down on defense, diving for balls, making the selfless play, things of that nature.
Without a doubt teams need players the caliber of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitski, Blake Griffin, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley of the NBA world to be successful. Such players are rewarded with their contracts, endorsements and All-Star selections. But where would they be without the players like Jeff Hornacek, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, and Matt Harpring?
When I look at the Suns roster this season and question who I believe has embodied hustle in every way and has been a huge part of what the Suns have been able to accomplish this season, one player comes to mind: Sebastian Telfair.
He started the season as the backup to Ronnie Price who was meant to be the backup to Steve Nash. As the season has gone along he has carved out a solid place for himself in the rotation.
Telfair has led the “Bench Mob” charge that Suns fans have witnessed accomplish things like the comeback from 17 down against the Clippers on the road and the two-point victory at home against the Utah Jazz after being down 13. That game may very well end up being a critical win, as the Suns are competing with the Jazz for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
In total, the Suns have dug themselves out of double-digit deficits to come out with a win eight times. And through it all, Sebastian has done whatever was required of him to change the game: defense, running the offense, steals, taking care of the ball …the list goes on and on.
What makes the Dan Majerle Hustle Award so interesting this year is that so many of the Suns players deserve the honor.
I’m sure Alvin Gentry would agree this is a great problem for a team to have. In reality, it has been the relentless hustle of this entire team throughout the season that has changed its fate from one many people wrote out of the playoff chase into a team competing for a spot in the playoffs.
No one knows how the last week of the season will play out. I do, however, know that without the contributions and hustle of Sebastian Telfair, the last week of the season wouldn’t be this exciting!